- MASH fired original character Capt. Oliver Harmon ‘Spearchucker’ Jones for supposed historical inaccuracy due to his race.
- Despite the casting changes, MASH remained successful with core characters like Hawkeye and Major Houlihan.
- Producers likely didn’t know what to do with Jones’ character, but cited budgetary reasons for letting him go.
CBS fired one original MASH character for the wrong reasons after the character appeared throughout season 1. Running for 11 seasons, MASH was no stranger to casting changes. It experienced a mass exodus in its first few seasons, with founding characters such as Henry Blake, Trapper John McIntyre, and eventually Frank Burns being written out of the series. All of them had their respective replacements in order for 4077 to continue functioning. However, before Henry Blake was even killed in the MASH season 3 finale, the sitcom had already lost a primary character.
Despite several casting changes, MASH continued to thrive. Keeping some core characters, led by Alan Alda’s Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Piercee and Loreta Swit’s Major Margaret Houlihan, helped keep the show moving forward. Much has been said about the show’s biggest cast exits, but one particular player who mysteriously disappeared from the medical war comedy has been barely discussed. As it turns out, his departure stemmed from being fired by MASH because of all the wrong reasons.
Timothy Brown Was Fired For Supposed Historical Inaccuracy
When MASH started, the Swamp actually had four surgeons — Hawkeye, Trapper, Burns, and Capt. Oliver Harmon ‘Spearchucker’ Jones, who was played by Timothy Brown. Previously appearing in Richard Hooker’s novels and also Robert Altman’s 1970 feature film, Jones’ character was also brought in to star in the CBS medical war dramedy. However, unlike his bunkmates, he barely made any impression on the series because he was let go from MASH just after appearing in 6 episodes. Subsequently, there were several reasons for this decision, but the most prominent one was because his existence was supposedly historically inaccurate.
Jones was the only African-American surgeon in MASH, which was good for the show’s inclusivity. However, the character was removed after the research at that time revealed that there were no Black doctors assigned to any MASH units during the Korean War. Co-creator Larry Gelbart subsequently explained that they not only did they not want to be historically inaccurate, they also didn’t want to do empty tokenism by keeping the character. It’s worth noting, however, that subsequent research eventually revealed that there were actually Black surgeons in MASH units during the Korean War, although this was discovered years later after the show.
Producers Didn’t Know What To Do With The Character
Another reason given for Jones’ sudden disappearance from MASH is that the producers didn’t really know what to do with the character. The show’s storytelling was already focused on the other 4077 surgeons, with Hawkeye and Trapper clearly presented as the ringleaders. Gelbart also cited budgetary reasons for cutting off the character, explaining that they had to trim down the cast to maintain their production cost, although it’s curious if this was merely a way to cover up the reality that they were unsure how to utilize Brown’s character properly. For what it’s worth, both the novels and the film used Jones just fine.